Catalyst Game Labs have the license for the upcoming BattleTech tabletop releases. Following the recent video game release, we interviewed some members of the CGL BattleTech team, which you can read below in our exclusive BattleTech Tabletop Interview.
Recently Harebrained Schemes released their turn-based strategy video game, which brought BattleTech onto the digital market for the first time in its tabletop format (previous games had all been FPS and RTS). We reviewed the BattleTech video game release here and also gave our Introduction to the BattleTech universe.
Planned for the third quarter of this year, Catalyst Game Labs are relaunching the BattleTech tabletop line starting with the BattleTech Beginner Box and BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat.
The BattleTech Beginner Box contains:
- 2 high-quality, fully assembled (unpainted) miniatures:
- 24-page Quick Start Rulebook
- 8 Quick Start Record Sheets
- 48 page fiction novella by William H. Keith, Jr., a prequel to the Gray Death Legion saga featuring Carlyle’s Commandos and Durant Carlyle; only available in the Beginner Box.
- 4-page Instant Guide to the Inner Sphere
- 4 Pilot Cards
- One all-new 18″ x 22″ full-color paper map (hexed, double-sided)
- Punchboard of additional BattleMechs
- 2 dice
The BattleTech: A Game of Armoured Combat box contains:
- 8 high-quality, fully assembled (unpainted) miniatures:
- Shadow Hawk
- 48-page Rulebook
- 16-page Record Sheet Booklet
- 48 page fiction novella by William H. Keith, Jr., a prequel to the Gray Death Legion saga featuring Carlyle’s Commandos and Durant Carlyle; only available in the A Game of Armored Combat box.
- 16-page Universe Primer
- 8 Pilot Cards
- 8 Alpha Strike Cards
- 2 heavy-stock reference sheets
- Two all-new 18” x 22” full-color paper maps (hexed, double-sided)
- Punchboard of additional BattleMechs and terrain
- 2 dice
These brand new boxed sets provide a great affordable jump on point for new players and experienced players will love the new miniatures, mapsheets and gameplay. Also included in each box will be a novella by veteran BattleTech author William Keith that will only be available with the boxed sets.
Further plans include:
- Shattered Fortress – A brand new BattleTech tabletop sourcebook advancing the timeline further in to the Dark Age of 3145.
- Forever Faithful – A brand new novel by Blaine Lee Pardoe that spans several BattleTech eras.
- Rogue Academy – A new young adult trilogy by Jennifer Brozek which explores the aftermath of the Age of Destruction.
- Previous limited release offerings – CGL are also looking at a wider availability for several fiction lines that have only seen a limited release.
BattleTech Tabletop Interview
We sat down with Catalyst Game Labs to talk about their upcoming BattleTech tabletop releases and their future plans.
TechRaptor: BattleTech is a huge IP with its own deep running history. HBS/PBX chose to start their game near the very start of the BattleTech timeline. Which era are you basing the new releases in, or making access to, and why did you choose these eras?
Brent Evans, BattleTech Line Developer: The ongoing BattleTech saga has a rich wonderful history spanning hundreds of years in-universe, and hundreds of products in real life. Each of the video games has launched from their own intended niche in the history, but a big part of that choice is their intentions to have space and time within Eras to expand into and through various universe events (like the Clan Invasion, Civil War or Jihad) in order to use story-line to fuel their future expansions. By contrast the tabletop side of the property has to do two very different things; first we need ‘gateway’ products which serve to bring new players into the universe, which is often done best with tech dated prior to the Clan Invasion. At the other end of the spectrum we must drive the forward-most point of the epic saga, using story as the forge keeping the property current and relevant. So while the video games get to bring alive specific points in this timeline, the tabletop game is really the steward of the universe and has always been the driving force moving that timeline forward. This is why you’ll see introductory products like the new Box Sets (set in the pre-3048 Era) release alongside the “Shattered Fortress” sourcebook (which begins in the year 3146.) We keep the fires burning bright at both ends of the spectrum.
TR: BattleTech has over thirty years worth of fans, and hopefully some of the new video game fans will come across after the turn-based video game release. How did you go about catering for the long time fans and finding a balance for the new fans?
BE: Appealing to both fanbases has been a central focus – and to do so we’ve overhauled the BattleTech designs to the forefront of cool modern mecha. With the new visuals in place we redesigned our new box set contents to deliver that same battlefield experience, with an affordable entry point presented in an attractive, easy to understand format. Veteran players will find the same rules they know and love, but with all-new mapsheets and miniatures they will find their challenges raised to a whole new level of battlefields experience.
TR: The video games have obviously been influenced by the tabletop games. Have any changes, ideas, or influence come back from the video games to the tabletop?
BE: There have definitely been changes, primarily bringing the games’ visuals up to whole new levels, and then throwing gauntlets of ‘cool factor’ down on each other. The visuals on the Mech designs are the most notable influences, and the efforts to redesign the miniatures in both Box Sets were certainly inspired by the modern computer games. But that inspiration was more of a one-upmanship than any design mimicry, and both teams intentionally kept the looks distinctly separate. PGI brought in Alex Iglesias as their Lead Art Designer and we answered back with Anthony Scroggins. Then HBS unleashes Mike McCain on the Inner Sphere so we raise the game with Marco Mazzoni. The video game designers have pushed the look and feel of BattleMechs in wonderful new directions, while we endeavor to stay closer to the spirit of the originals – which is frankly as it should be in an IP with multiple licenses. The other area where this is most noticeable is the new line of BattleTech hex maps, which have visuals so good they could be straight out of one of the video games. It’s a whole generation of gameplay experience and either way one plays, the battlefields are coming alive like never before.
TR: What are the biggest changes we’re seeing from the 25th Anniversary Edition to your planned releases?
BE: First, that there is now not just one box, but two! Every single component of the BattleTech Beginner Set and the BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat boxes was totally redesigned–from the miniatures, to the maps, to the rules, to the new fiction included in both boxes. Those novellas may be the biggest addition to the boxes. We’ve always emphasized the importance of fiction in the BattleTech game, but this is the first time we’ve included it in the very first products a new BattleTech player might open.
TR: Are there any rules changes in the new versions?
BE: There are no significant rules changes–the core rules are the same system that players have enjoyed for many years. However, we’ve redesigned their presentation from top to bottom, along the lines of our recent, successful “BattleMech Manual” rulebook. The rules are easier to follow than ever before, and we’ve included some of the informal “tricks of the trade” that longtime players have developed to help simplify and speed up play.
TR: If the initial sales are good, are the plans to release further Mech miniatures updates in further releases?
BE: Absolutely! Success breeds success and if we can prove that sales of these new Box Sets justify expanding the production line of plastic mech miniature sets, then yes we could certainly see an expanding line of sets fleshing out even more of the BattleTech universe.
TR: There’s been a big following for competitive skirmish games in the last few years, has this influenced the release at all? Do you think there’s a future for a competitive skirmish BattleTech market?
BE: Oh definitely. From reinforcing the value of the new product model, to providing numbers and metrics on the value of the competitive skirmish market, the industry’s evolution has made it clear that we must re-establish BattleTech as a tent-pole product line while reinforcing the unique niche that makes it so vital. Fan of both BattleTech and the other games with whom we share this market have proven time and again to be fiercely loyal and willing to support these games. That’s the biggest measure of a healthy market. In return we are feeding that demand with quality products and a focussed effort to add a new generation of players. We are only just beginning to meet the demand within the competitive skirmish market.
TR: Many games are now combining different elements, boardgames with rpg elements, wargames with deck building elements. Has this ever been considered for BattleTech?
BE: From the very start, BattleTech has been more than “just” a tabletop wargame. BattleTech very quickly lent itself to the RPG format; the most recent incarnation of the BattleTech RPG book is “A Time of War.” We’re actively pursuing new ways to blend tactical and roleplaying gameplay. The BattleTech rules also allow for games of many different sizes and complexities, all the way up to massive planetary invasion. Our fast-play system, Alpha Strike, will receive a new core rulebook later this year, Alpha Strike: Commander’s Edition, which combines all the key rules and updates since that game’s successful launch in 2013.
TR: With the plans for the new fiction line, are we going to see a tie-in with the tabletop games? An ongoing story campaign, story missions with the novels?
John Helfers, CGL Fiction Director: When Brent came on as the BattleTech Line Developer, one of the things he and I agreed on was to bring back the concept that the fiction would play a larger role in driving the game storyline. Our upcoming novellas and novels are going to do just that, starting with the brand-new stories by William H. Keith in the BattleTech Beginner Set and the BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat volume, and we’ve got much more fiction coming in the future, all tied closely to where the tabletop game is heading in the coming years.
TR: BattleTech is one of the longest running tabletop IPs. What do you think it is that keeps fans coming back?
BE: A love of the BattleTech universe. There are virtually no tabletop games which have told one rich, evolving story without pause for nearly 35 years. The BattleTech saga spans the stars without losing sight of what makes us human, and depicts clashes between mighty BattleMechs without forgetting the warriors at their heart. There’s room on the vast tapestry of that story for anyone to find a character, a faction, or a BattleMech that speaks to them–and once they hear just a bit of our story, they’ll want to hear more.
TR: We love that there are novellas included in the box set releases. Will this be consistent throughout all the new line releases?
John Helfers, Catalyst Game Labs Fiction Director: Going back for as long as I’ve played the game, nearly every sourcebook has included a short fiction component, and we’re going to continue that in our upcoming releases as well. As noted above, standalone novellas remain a key part of our plans for the fiction line, as well as the occasional novel that may explore other BattleTech historical eras.
TR: The Mechs in the two starter boxes do look incredible. Players are obviously all going to have their own favourite Mechs that might not be included in those sets (mine is the TimberWolf if you could make that a priority please!). What can you say to put their minds at ease?
BE: The enormous positive response to those miniatures is not lost on management at all. We’re keenly aware of the desire for more miniatures along the lines of those in the boxed sets. Depending on the success of those sets, we certainly hope to do more like them in the future. This is also my chance to shine the spotlight on the incredible efforts of Iron Wind Metals and their ongoing line of premium miniatures for BattleTech. The IWM team have been incredible supporters of BattleTech over the years, and while Catalyst’s new line of box set products are perfect for leading new players into the universe, that will ever only be a mere appetizer to the enormous number of units available throughout the Inner Sphere – all purchasable through Iron Wind Metals. Not only do they have nearly every unit ever produced for the game, but they have a wide selection of variants and customizable pieces which is unmatched! The colorful folks at IWM are constantly working with me to make sure their product line up is up to date and can meet the needs of every player. When it comes to BattleTech, the premium line of miniatures will always be found with IWM.
TR: Which is your favorite Mech and why?
Brent: I have several, but at the very top of the list is the Shadow Cat because of its fantastic balance of mobility and firepower. Really fast, can jump over anything, hits hard, and looks cool while doing it!
Ray Arrastia, BattleTech Assistant Line Developer: The Marauder. From all the illustrations and early fiction, it’s something alien and predatory. It’s respected, feared and piloted by both heroes and villains.
John Helfers, Catalyst Game Labs Fiction Director: I have to go with the Battlemaster, the first ’Mech figure I ever owned, and one that still resonates with me to this day.
Aaron Cahall, Senior Editor: The TR-1 Wraith. It’s a bit undergunned, but a great antagonizer–will my opponent waste turns trying to hunt it down, or let me shoot them in the back all game long?
TR: Are you a Clan or Great House fan? Which one is your favorite and why?
Brent: Clan Wolf, hands down. The Blood of Kerensky trilogy got me hooked on the game, so I have a soft spot. But ever since I was tasked by Jordan Weisman to design their signature units (Warwolf, Wulfen, Black Wolf BA and Carnivore Assault Tank) I’ve just really loved this faction. There are several others I really like, including he Magistracy of Canopus, the Rasalhague Dominion, and the mercenary Kell Hounds & Gray Death Legion. But when it comes to my style of play and the flavor I put on my players, it always ends up being Clan Wolf.
Ray: I’m a fan of the Great Houses and their Mercenaries. The stylings, history and personalities of the original factions is what kept me hooked on the BattleTech and for me to delve deeper. My favorite Great House is the Federated Suns.
John: If I must choose, I’d have to go with the late Smoke Jaguar Clan–the surviving remnants of which are getting their moment in the sun in a forthcoming novel from Blaine Lee Pardoe next year. Not only did they have the coolest sigil (IMO), but they were also one of the fiercest Clans around. And they pioneered the ProtoMech program as well, combining combat prowess with scientific ability for the best of both worlds.
Aaron: I’ve always been interested in the nations of the Periphery. I guess I’m not much of a joiner–life on the frontier isn’t easy, but at least you have the chance to make your own destiny, rather than be at the mercy of feudal lords who can’t be bothered to remember your home planet even exists. Among the Periphery nations, the story of the Outworlds Alliance has always appealed to me.
Thank you all for taking the time to answer our questions!
Are you excited for the upcoming BattleTech tabletop releases? Did you first discover BattleTech through the tabletop, fiction or video game? Which is your favorite Mech? Let us know in the comments below.More About This Game